Fundamental Elements of ATA Curriculum: Part 2

Written by on January 20, 2011

Age-based instruction

I’m always amazed when someone asks, “Can my 10 year old be in class with my 4 year old.  I don’t want to drive back and forth more than I have to.” This is a tough question to answer, but you need to get it straight in your heart and decide HOW YOU WANT TO HANDLE IT.

Personally, I try to base decisions like this on prevailing educational psychology rather than on another opinion which asks, “What is best for my business?” You need to decide how YOU want to do it.    However, I’m not sure that there are TWO positions here because what is best for my business has to be what is best for the student. Ultimately each student’s success comes back to you as part of your reputation, and long term good will is always the right decision for your business.

I believe that there is a reason why kindergarten students don’t take class with 2nd graders.  And that’s why your TINY TIGERS need to be separated from your KARATE KIDS and your ADULTS.    We don’t need to analyze that now.  Experts with much more experience and knowledge in psychology and child development learned long ago that these groups are very different and need a different approach.  It is even a stretch to say that 2nd graders can train with 6th graders, but we will wait till we shift market awareness to the point where we all have a waiting list for admission to our programs before  we can  answer that question.

I also believe that your instructors should be trained in those same THREE basic levels:  TINY TIGERS, KARATE KIDS, ADULTS.     And what happens in the classes, what drills you use, how you speak—everything should consider the differences in the students.

I also believe that your class schedule needs to provide times for these THREE groups to train separately.  If we consider the conversation between the college students at the beginning, it is easy to see that aged-based instruction means that there are no kindergartners in class with 5th graders and there are no high school sophomores in class with university level juniors.

Class schedule: beginner, intermediate, advanced, black

The next element of your curriculum that parallels a university environment is that there is a distinct progression from beginner, to intermediate, to advanced, and then to black. And we don’t need to look far to find this structure already created for us in the SONGAHM CURRICULUM.  It is rather obvious that Chung Jung 2 is more sophisticated than Songahm 1.   This structure of Songahm forms divides all the kicks, blocks, strikes, and stances into a clearly organized pattern from beginner to intermediate to advanced to black.

You can teach the Songahm forms in the order in which they were originally presented or you can use a simple BLOCK system that groups them in this way:







SA 1,2,3 SA 4,5 InWha 1 IW2, CJ1, CJ2



All of your traditional Taekwondo training now becomes focused around the form.  It’s a simple and good idea for creating a progression.   And you probably would agree that everything in those forms is linked directly to what students start doing when they become black belts and that there is a progression from beginner to intermediate to advanced to black.

That’s the goal: to make everything that happens in every class related to what happens when they become black belts.

And the next goal is to make sure that everything they do as 1st degrees prepares them for being 2nd degrees.  And so on and so on.

And my class schedule reflects this strucuture.  There are separate classes for TT and K4K divided into beginner, intermediate, advanced, and black. Although all adult ranks meet in their own class, there are NO CHILDREN in that class.

By using the block system described above,  all K4K WOY are in the same class and all do the same material; all the K4K CGP students are in the same class and do the same material, and all the K4K BBR students are in the same class and do the same material.  There is a similar structure for THREE levels in my TINY TIGER program.  (Refer to REACHING FOR EXCELLENCE #2 for more on TINY TIGERS.)   The simplicity of this approach makes it easier to stress STRUCTURE and DISCIPLINE in the classroom because everyone is doing the same thing.  (Again, thanks Chief Master Clark.)

Isn’t changing class times a problem?

I don’t think so.  It is true that when you use this system, the time at which your students take class will change almost every six months.   When you build rapport and create value, these changes are not difficult.  We make a big deal out of it when a student “graduates” from WOY class and goes to CGP class or from CGP class into BBR class, and of course when he graduates from BBR class into 1st black class.

These transitions parallel similar transitions found in academic life: elementary to junior high to high school and to university.  Most families understand such a progression and the changes it entails, but it is UP TO YOU to be sure that your families look at your program as an educational experience and not some after-school recreation that gets in the way of family time or vacation or soccer or scouting.

You should create so much value that your program is the first priority for families after education and family time.

Don’t Miss Part 3 “Curriculum based instruction” coming soon, including details on . . .

  • Blending weapons into color belt material
  • Using a program structure like “basic, master club, leadership”
  • Writing down class planners

  1. Master Latherow   On   January 26, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    I believe there are benefits to mixed age or family classes that should be considered before dismissing the concept based on our public school system. There are other educational studies and primary schools that mix ages.

    Benefit #1: Younger students benefit from modeling older students behavior in class. When a younger student starts to be less disciplined in age grouped classes they tend to affect the students near them. The domino effect takes hold and only an instructor with good class management skills will be able to refocus the group. In a mixed age class the older student act a behavioral landmarks and this prevent negative class dynamics from disrupting others.
    Benefit #2: Families will find it much easier to join if they can attend the same class times as their children.
    Benefit #3: Families that train in the same class learn to respect each other as equals. In every other sport/activity parents are in the superior position. If they train together they will have to learn the same material at the same time. This equality in social position in the class allows families to have something in common that never can be taken away. Commonly when children become teens they lose the ability to relate to their parents. Taekwondo classes can be that bridge.
    Benefit #4: When one of the families loses motivation to come to class the others can reinforce perseverance.
    Benefit #5: Practicing at home is more fun when the family can help each other remember what was taught. 2 or more heads are better than one.

    These are just some of the benefits to the students. There are also many business system benefits to allowing families to train together.

    Thank You,

    Master Latherow

  2. william babin   On   January 27, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    Thanks to Master Latherow for posting a well-said comment. i offer this reply.

    When you want to make some changes in your academy–sales, marketing, operations, curriculum, instructor training–and you have found two or three good ideas that make sense to you and you are not sure how to choose just one, here’s what you do.

    Always look at the bottom line!

    it is that simple. if you are considering two or three ideas that make sense to you and you can’t see much difference between them, just find out how much money the operations are generating and CHOOSE THE IDEA THE COMES FROM THE SOURCE THAT MAKES THE MOST MONEY.

    it is a simple rule of business. it is not enough for an idea to be good or to make sense. it must also make money.

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